Aquarium Maintenance Products
Aquarium maintenance products are imperative to keeping a fish tank looking its best.
Do you ever wonder “What can I do to increase sales in this business?” If not, you’re in the minority. I don’t know a single store owner who does not think about this every day. It’s not always apparent what change in direction you might take to raise your receipts. Sometimes, it’s going to require a leap of faith to pursue a new path in merchandising. Forays into areas unfamiliar to you might prove to be quixotic, yielding only a marginal increase in sales, rather than the giant leap you had hoped for.
I would like to recommend a tried and true category that will always work to your benefit in more ways than one. Not only will you make money, you will be performing a public service to your customers. This magical concept is no secret to anyone, but it is overlooked by many shop owners. Simply put, aquarium maintenance products are a guaranteed money-maker, especially if you feature them in a dedicated section in your shop. Typically, these less than glamorous items are scattered throughout your store, secreted here and there, never displayed as a group or concept. But as we well know, fish tanks get dirty and need regular maintenance to keep them looking good, and their residents happy and healthy.
You can’t clean a tank without a siphon hose and buckets. You will want a hose that is long enough to reach from the bottom of the tank down into the buckets or large plastic trashcans. You will need two of these, one for the dirty water and one for the clean water.
First, you gravel-wash into one can until you have as much water removed as you wish. There is no precise formula for determining how much water to take out. I recommend more than most people—50 to 75 percent of the total gallonage, depending on how dirty the tank and/or gravel may be. Let’s say you are cleaning a 55-gal. tank. I would take out about 30 gallons of water.
While it would be unusual to find a can with volume measurements on the inside or outside, you can put them there yourself. Starting with two identical cans, fill a 5-gal. bucket with measurements on it and pour this into one of the cans. Now make a mark on the 5-gal. line. Shine a bright light from the inside out and you will be able to see the water line from the outside. Continue on and do the same for 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30-gal. levels. Assuming you have started with a 50-gal. can, just go ahead and finish off the measuring up to 40 gal. After this, you can take 10 gal. out if you wish or simply leave it until the job is finished.
Now, start gravel-washing into the other trashcan until you get to the same level you see in the first trashcan. Upon completion of this job, it’s now time to use the water you measured into the first can to fill the tank. Assuming you figured correctly, the aquarium should now be properly filled. Did I mention that the clean water must be at a temperature equal to or slightly higher than the tank temperature? It must also have the proper chemicals added to deactivate the chloramines present in most water supplied by city, state or municipal public water facilities.
You may also find it necessary to add certain salts or minerals not present in your tap water. For example, some cities supply water that is too soft for most fishes. A more common problem, however, is water that is harder—more minerals—than many tropical fish prefer. There’s not much you can do about this, unless you run your water through a RO/DI filter. You must store this water and then use it to fill the tank. If you do this, the resulting water will need to be reconstituted. This means it will require adding minerals back, since no fish can live in pure distilled water for very long.
The above-mentioned equipment is contained in the “Drain and Fill” Tank Kit that you can sell to customers in your store. To recapitulate, the elements are:
1. Two 50-gal. plastic trashcans.
2. One or two 5-gal. buckets with measured lines.
3. One sufficiently long siphon hose and gravel
4. One 50-ft. water transport hose with assorted faucet attachment equipment.
5. One thermometer to help you achieve the correct temperature of the return water.
6. One bottle of water treatment chemical.
7. One jar of buffer to achieve the desired level of dissolved salts.
8. One water pump to move the water from the trash can with the old water to a toilet, and additionally, to move the new water into the tank. This pump must have a threaded return that will fit the connection on the hose that carried the new water to the trashcan from the sink.
The idea here is to develop a kit—a set of tools that will help the tank owner get his tank clean and make the least amount of mistakes in the process. Besides, you do want to make money on tank maintenance equipment, don’t you? You know, everyone is going to need some basic water testing equipment to check the parameters of their tank. Things like pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, general hardness and carbonate hardness come to mind.
The Nitty Gritty
For reef hobbyists, you will want to sell the RO/DI units and their refill cartridges. This will also give you the opportunity to sell food-grade storage barrels for storing processed refill water. Sure, I know you want to sell water by the gallon, but why not sell to people on both sides of the street—the novices and the more advanced hobbyists.
You will certainly be selling processed water as well. It is a brave new world now that stores can actually sell water—both fresh and marine. It almost seems like a dream come true to sell a product as basic as water. But if you are already doing it, you know how labor intensive and detail-oriented the process can be. There are a lot of mistakes that can be made, and some of them can be catastrophic. It’s easy to get busy and forget to turn off a valve filling a vat or giant storage barrel. Stay on your guard at all times and set alarms as a backup for your memory.
What else falls under the purview of aquarium maintenance products? Most notably, filter material, be it in bulk or proprietary cartridges. You can’t keep a fish tank clean without a filter of some sort: overflow, canister, wet/dry sump, sponge, internal mechanical or air-driven box filters. These all require removable renewable filtration media of some type. And for the intermediate cleanings, you can use magnets, cleaning wands and scrub pads.
There are a plethora of parts that can fail, wear out or simply vanish from many types of motor-driven filters. You should keep a substantial supply of these on hand for a large selection of brands. These parts are essential for the proper functioning of the filters. When you can help customers with these small details, they will become aware of your dedication to servicing their needs. This builds customer trust, and there is no better way to tell the public that you are there to help them, not just to make money.
Finally, the ultimate aquarium maintenance product is you. That’s right. You, your store and your employees must provide an aquarium maintenance service. Why? If you don’t do it, someone else will—and whoever that is will be taking business from you. No one gets closer to tank owners than the people who service aquariums. PB
Edward C. Taylor has been in the pet industry for more than 40 years as a retailer, live fish importer and wholesaler, and fish-hatchery manager.